Below is the itinerary of our three-week road trip through Ireland. As of today, we are two weeks and 1,612 miles into the trip, and we leave for Northern Ireland tomorrow. Graham has been doing all the driving and thankfully so as there have been some nail-biting turns and sidewalks for roads. Then there are the excessive number of roundabouts.
That said, we are so happy with this trip - there's no other way to see Ireland except by car. We've been able to get to places where a tour bus wouldn't dare squeeze through, no matter how much it sucked in. The ability to stop every time we wanted to take a photo, which was/is all the time, is key.
I knew Ireland was green. I didn't know it was this green, and 50 shades of green. The water is blue, blue, blue. The landscape has been breathtaking and, at times, unexpected. The people here are gracious: they are kind enough to repeat everything twice so I can understand and polite enough to wait until I leave to roll their eyes. The beer, fantastic. The food... yeah, they have food.
Then there are the castles. And abbeys. And more castles and abbeys. In the US, we have Starbucks on every corner. In Ireland, they have centuries-old ruins at every turn. Here are some of our favorites and not-so-favorites:
ROCK OF DUNAMASE (12th century)
While there isn't much left of the castle, what does remain is enough for one to imagine how substantial it used to be. On top of the rock, which sits 151ft above land, you have 360-degree views of County Laois.
HORE ABBEY (13th century)
A ruined monastery that sits near the Rock of Cashel, Hore Abbey sits in the middle of open, flat green land. Definitely worth walking past all the cows that congregate near the Abbey and risking stepping into the 'landmines' they leave behind.
ROCK OF CASHEL (12th century)
While there have been several renovations, much of the original structure can still be seen. The Rock of Cashel formed when the Devil, being banished by St. Patrick, took a bite of a nearby mountain then dropped it on the land where it sits now. This story may or may not be true.
GLENDALOUGH MONASTIC CITY
This is the oldest monastic site in Ireland, having been settled in the 6th century with structures built in the 10th century. While the remains aren't as impressive as the above the three (in my opinion), it was worth the visit to see the site and walk through Glendalough to the Upper Lake.
Now, looking back at the pictures, I can reason that you may think they all look the same: stone structures, green land, maybe some sheep. I promise you each was distinctive and memorable. Skellig Michael, a monastic settlement on one of the Skellig Islands, deserves its own separate post. Stay tuned.
We went to Bunratty Castle and Village, which I think is perfect for families with kids. You can see what life was like back in the day, complete with characters in costume. But simply put, we preferred the other castles. Finally, we swung by Kylemore Abbey (shown below) this afternoon but didn't go in because of the overwhelming number of tourists. I'm sure this won't be our last castle/abbey, but it will be for this blog (until it's not).